Monday, March 4, 2013

Crown Princess Fine Dining

In my opinion, unlike uptown Markham or Richmond Hill, where you will find a lot more average priced, middle-ranged Chinese dim sum restaurants, there are only two types in downtown Toronto, which are basically the two extremes: the cheap and the pricey. The cheap, semi sketchy-looking, hole-in-the wall dim sum joints offer traditional dim sum plates at bargain prices, and are typically located in Chinatown (or the general vicinity of Spadina and Dundas). The other type, the pricey, extravagant "fine dining" Chinese restaurants have fancy dim sum during the day and multi-course dinners at night (and often doubles as wedding banquet reception halls on weekends). These high-end restaurants often have over-the-top decor and aside from traditional dim sum, they also offer new creations and sometimes creative takes on traditional ones. They are also generally very keen on presentation and service.

Just by the picture below, you can probably tell that Crown Princess Fine Dining belongs in the latter category of dim sum restaurants. There are chandeliers on both the ceiling and the walls, where you will also find large fancy-looking paintings. The crown moldings, pillars, and the granite / marble bar completes the entire elegant ambiance that Crown Princess is striving for.

Fancy teapots and tableware at Crown Princess with porcelain rests for your spoon and chopsticks.

Dim sum are listed as either small ($3.10), medium ($4.30), large ($5.30), XL ($6.30) or Special / SP (no idea how much).

My parents and I shared the following 11 dishes:

Mashed Potato & Pumpkin Spring Roll (M, $4.30)

Baked Eel Puff Pastry (L, $5.30)

Chicken Feet w/ Chef's Sauce (M, $4.30)

Crispy Jumbo Shrimp w/ Mayonnaise Sauce (XL, $6.30)

Fried Sticky Dumpling w/ Chicken (S, $3.10)

Shrimp Dumpling (Har Gow) (L, $5.30)

Steamed Shrimp & Vegetable Rice Noodle Roll (L, $5.30)

BBQ Pork Buns (S, $3.10)

Beef Ball w/ Preserved Orange Peel (S, $3.10)

Baked Salty Egg Yolk Paste Bun (M, $4.30)

Baked Lotus Paste w/ Tapioca (L, $5.30)

Highlights for me were:

 - Baked eel puff pastry: It's not often that I see eel in dim sum so I quite like this, particularly the sweetness of the eel paired with the fluffy, flaky pastry.
Jumbo shrimp w/ mayonnaise: Served hot, shrimps w/ mayonnaise neatly encased and wrapped in a very thin, crispy shell. Leave your chopsticks and eat it with your hands.
Beef balls w/ preserved orange peel: I've never been a fan of beef balls but these were fantastic. They were ultra soft, tender and juicy.
Baked salty egg yolk paste bun: The bun was light as air and it was filled with a sweet and runny egg yolk paste. I could have had all three.
Baked lotus paste w/ tapioca: The best and most memorable dim sum dish. You know it's fresh when it takes the kitchen 20 minutes to make it. Really cool presentation too and the medley of lotus paste and tapioca was so deliciously thick; it's like nothing I've ever had before. 

The chicken feet, shrimp dumplings, and the fried sticky chicken dumplings were good. However, the BBQ pork buns, the mashed potato & pumpkin spring rolls, and the steamed shrimp & vegetable rice noodle roll were truly disappointing. I'm pretty sure those BBQ pork buns are the smallest BBQ pork buns I've ever had in my entire life. The spring rolls were bland and boring, and the steamed rice rolls? Well, a thumbs-up for the generous amount of soya sauce they had in that porcelain flask, but two thumbs-down for the super thick rice noodle wrap. 

I also have to mention that the service was odd at Crown PrincessFirst of all, I made reservations last Sunday for 12:30PM but we still had to wait 20-25 minutes for a table. I actually overheard someone beside me, who was also waiting, said out loud "so what's the point of making reservations when we still have to wait so long?". Good question, pal. My thinking is: 

If you made a reservation, you will wait for 20-25 minutes.
If you did not make a reservation, you will wait for 40-45 minutes. 
Your pick.

Secondly, several food runners at Crown Princess only spoke / understand Mandarin; they did not understand Cantonese or English. For example, the beef balls, which normally comes with Worcestershire sauce for dipping, didn't come with any, so I waved down a random food runner (which, by the way, is completely normal at a Chinese restaurant). My parents and I tried asking him for the sauce, in both Cantonese and English, but he stood there completely clueless! We had to resort to hand gestures. Next, another food runner had no idea what we wanted when we asked, in both Cantonese and English, for a second order sheet for dessert. This particular runner actually just walked away. As in, he didn't even try asking someone else to help us afterwards, he simply just WALKED OFF as if our conversation (if you can even call it that) never existed. How rude. But in all honesty, we just found the whole ordeal really amusing, and given Crown Princess' location and clientele, extremely weird. Management really needs to get on it and fix that.

Other than the less than stellar service, I still really enjoyed the dim sum at Crown Princess, particularly their new creations and thoughtful desserts. 

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